Cross Country Opens Season At UIC Invitational
Aug. 31, 2005
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee men's and women's cross country teams get their season underway this weekend at the UIC Home Invitational, Saturday, in Chicago. The Panthers began last season at this same meet, with the women going 3-0 and the men 2-2 in the meet's dual-scoring format.
Year after year, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee cross country program continues to establish itself as one of the top programs in the Horizon League. Both the men's and women's teams posted third-place finishes at the league championship in 2004, to once again finish in the top half of the league, this time with sizable advantages over fourth place.
For the Panther men, it was an improvement over five-straight fourth-place finishes, while Josh Nygren and Nate Weiland were the first two finishers not from league champion Butler. UWM scored 78 points, 49 points ahead of Youngstown State. The women saw all five scoring runners finish among the top 25 for 84 points, 18 points ahead of the YSU women.
This year, both teams return a strong core of finishers from 2004 with a combined eight of their top 10 runners. Head coach Pete Corfeld looks forward to all five scoring women returning, as well as the top three men.
Senior leadership and experienced depth has Corfeld optimistic that his teams can compete with the best in the Horizon League and make a strong showing at the Great Lakes Regional.
"We are entering a big year for our program," Corfeld said. "We have numerous accomplished senior athletes. They are confident, have a strong work ethic and have high expectations for this season.
"As usual, Butler and Loyola are the favorites in our league. I expect our runners to be competitive at the league meet, and if we could place in the top 10 at regionals, it would be a nice by-product of competing against teams like Butler and Loyola."
"Anna returns for her senior," Corfeld said. "She earned first team all-league the last two years, and we expect her to be able to do that again."
A pair of sophomores will continue to show their worth after successful rookie years. Holly Nearman emerged as one of the team's more consistent scorers, while Angie Huebner had a breakout track season. Nearman was Milwaukee's No. 2 runner at all but one race in 2004 and Huebner struggled after winning the UIC Lakefront Invitational, but was still a top-seven runner four times.
"Holly had an exceptional first year of cross country. She is a natural long distance runner, which has her suited for cross country," Corfeld said. "Angie had a rough cross country season, but rebounded with a great track season, earning outdoor league newcomer of the year honors. She learned a lot in her first year and will be a real boost to the team."
Seniors Katie Anderson, Griffin McNulty and Tenia Fisher each proved their abilities as scorers for the Panthers last season, while junior Kourtney Nault battled injury to post a top-30 finish at the league meet. All four upperclassmen return, to giving the team added experience.
"Katie is a tough competitor and should be top-five for us when it counts. Griffin is talented and should be among the top five at all times," Corfeld said. "She has slipped out of that group in the past, but we will look put that in the past.
"Tenia continues to improve each year and is building off her second league indoor athlete of the year award last year. Kourtney Nault was injury-plagued last season. She is a natural cross country runner, so if she can stay healthy she should be among our top seven runners."
A pair of freshmen could vie for places among the Panthers' top seven in Erin Magargee and Megan Johnson. Magargee did not run cross country last season, but competed during the track season. Meanwhile, Johnson is a true freshman from River Falls, Wis., and could crack the top seven as a rookie. She qualified for state in her last three seasons of high school, taking 12th as a junior and 15th as a sophomore.
"Erin is a tough individual. She may be a top-seven runner for us, more so from her will than her talent," Corfeld said. "As an incoming freshman, Megan Johnson is another tough runner for us. I expect she will be among our regular top seven, but she could rise to the top five."
"Josh is prepared and reliable at all times, while Nate continues to gain confidence and improve," Corfeld said. "Josh will be up there once again and I expect Nate to have a solid and successful year."
Milwaukee also returns its No. 3 runner from a year ago in junior Ben Uphoff. Uphoff was UWM's third finisher at three meets, including a 21st-place finish at the league championship, and scored in a fourth race.
"Ben is talented enough to be running with Josh and Nate," Corfeld said. "This year could be a breakout year for him."
Junior Justin Gorman continues to develop as a distance runner after competing solely in track in high school. Last season, he posted a fourth-place finish in the shorter UIC Invitational, before winning a league indoor track championship in the 800m.
"Justin has leg speed, and has been developing a better distance base," Corfeld said. "He has been improving more and more as a distance runner over the last two years."
Corfeld returns two more young scorers from last season in sophomores RJ Pire and Nick Hawley. Pire was the second freshman finisher at the league meet, taking 27th, and Hawley battled injury to score at the first three meets of the season.
"RJ is a solid and willing competitor who would jump of a cliff for this team," Corfeld said. "Nick had an injury-plagued first year. If healthy, he should be among our top seven runners."
Corfeld also welcomes four newcomers that will look to make an immediate impact, led by senior Kirk DeWindt. DeWindt comes to UWM from UW-Oshkosh, where he was an All-American in the 1500m during track. He also ran on a national championship team with the Titans.
Kyle Soukop, Nick Porter and Steve Vesbach join the team after qualifying for the state cross country meet as seniors. Soukop led the way, taking eighth at the meet, while Porter and Vesbach were high school teammates at Mukwonago.
"We have three talented runners coming in as freshmen this year," Corfeld said. "Each one of them could compete to be a top-seven runner for us as just freshmen."